There’s been a lot of debate recently about the nacre depth on bead nucleated freshwater pearls, along with concerns about the materials being used as the nucleus.
Rather fortuitously while we were making up some necklaces recently and enlarging the drill holes so the silk can be doubled back and hidden two pearls split neatly in half.
One was a white 12.6mm Ming – metallic lustre with rainbow overtones and the other was a prototype small Edison white round of 9.5mm and rippled creamier nacre (If you don’t know the two pearl brand names don’t worry, just ignore).
Nacre depth is a real problem with saltwater Akoya pearls. Some pearls spend such a short time being grown that you can see the bead through the nacre (this is known as blinking because the pearls appear to blink when rolled back and forth). Thin nacre is one of the reasons why we have not carried an extensive stock of Akoya pearls up to now – although having found a couple of suppliers who guarantee decent nacre we will be stocking them more in future)
Tahitian and South Sea pearls are always grown on an inserted bead
But bead nucleation has exploded onto freshwater pearls in just the last few years. With large grower to wholesaler Grace pearl leading the way Chinese pearl farmers are producing huge round pearls from a schegeli/cumingii hybrid in the most amazing range of colours, some pastel and some deep, such as deep purples, as well as rippled surfaced pearls, nicknamed ripple pearls, with shimmering play of colours and often an effect like gold leaf has been added in patches.
Anyway, here is the result of the two broken pearls…
You can clearly see the beads and the layer of nacre. In the smaller pearl the nacre is just 0.6mm thick (minimum depth for a Tahitian pearl is 0.8mm over 80% of the pearl surface) so that would be a fail, while the larger pearl has a happy 1.23mm of nacre. Plenty.